Posted: 24 January 2023
Read the story here
Our unnamed narrator (get used to that) has been invited to the home of Crawford Tillinghast, a scientist of “physical and metaphysical researches” and our narrator’s former best friend. 10 weeks ago Tillinghast told our narrator he was working on a machine that would awaken dormant sense organs in the human body to see the universe beyond our limited 5 senses.
Our narrator called him crazy and Tillinghast threw him out of his home. Now Tillinghast seems to have succeeded but has spend the last 2 and a half months as a complete shut in, a physical and mental shell of his former self living without electricity or servants.
Tillinghast guides our narrator to his attic laboratory and sits him next to his machine. When he turn it on it emits a strange indescribable colour that Tillinghast explains is ultraviolet light, visible now that the machine has begun emitting waves activating the pineal gland in the two of them.
Our narrator sees awesome visions of vast architecture and alien creatures swimming around and through the solid objects in the room. Tillinghast warns him not to move during the experience for while they’re seeing into other dimensions, they can also be seen by those extra-dimensional beings. Nevertheless, our narrator is frightened enough to draw his revolver during the process.
As our narrator is freaking out watching alien jellyfish eat each-other like agar.io, Tillinghast reveals that he never sent the servants away, they were all picked off by the predators from beyond when they drew their attention during Tillinghast’s experiments, and now those predators are on their way here.
Tillinghast has invited our narrator over to kill him too, but not before rubbing his success in his face by showing him the horrible monsters that lurk from beyond. Apparently the process of being eaten is instantaneous and painless, but the sight of the creatures is so horrible that the servants all died screaming in terror.
As Tillinghast tries to compel our paralyzed narrator to look at the creatures materialising behind him he beholds them himself and dies from apoplexy as our narrator uses his revolver to shoot the machine and banish the spectres.
Tillinghast is blamed for the murder of the servants and our narrator is told the visions he witnessed must have been some sort of hypnotic trance. However, the police are never able to find the bodies of any of Tillinghast’s missing servants and our narrator can never forget the feeling of invisible beings swimming around him, nor the persistent sense of being pursued.
Short and sweet, but a really fun concept.
We know that we’re bound by the limits of our senses, and there are plenty of animals that percipient the world differently. The example with ultraviolet light is a good showcase.
Of course, scientists are pretty sure the pineal gland can’t actually see into other dimensions. In humans it regulates the circadian rhythm by making melatonin. There’s a lot of mysticism associated with it, and it’s sometimes tied in with the concept of the third eye.
Fun fact! In some animals (mostly amphibians and reptiles) the pineal gland controls the parietal eye; a literal third photoreceptor that can’t ‘see’ in any kind of complex way, but just detects intensity and changes in light - how sunny it is, whether it’s night or day, and if a predator is standing right above you.
But we lost that ability when we became mammals (ugh.)
Of course, it isn’t just sight. Tillinghast’s machine somehow allows extra-dimensional beings to see and interact with us as well. The process seems to open up the senses of anything caught in it’s waves, in our dimension or otherwise.
It’s a perfect little cosmic horror story; Someone sees/experiences something that shatters their pre-existing idea of the universe and can never return to the comfort of ignorance again. Also someone sees something so spooky they die.
And no racism in this one! Good job!
· The story was written in 1920 but only published in 1934 in the June edition of The Fantasy Fan
· Crawford Tillinghast's name in the original draft was Henry Annesley.
· The accompanying blurb of the 1938 Weird Tales publication was:
-If Tillinghast was really a madman, then what became of the bodies of the servants whom the police said he had murdered?-
· The 1986 movie 'From Beyond' is the second of four movies by Stuart Gordon based -more or less- on the original HPL stories. (Funny enough, the same guy who wrote 'Honey, I Shrunk the Kids')
"I find the June FANTASY FAN interesting. This story is really good, the one by H. P. Lovecraft. Science in a weird atmosphere, 'From Beyond;' interesting, and the story worked out completely satisfactorily. This will probably horrify a number of readers, but as far as I know, this is the first story I have ever liked by Lovecraft; but I like it very well." —Forrest J. Ackerman, 1934
I can respect that, Forrest.